Some people are stuck in their cubicles all day. Others spend their time working in public, performing visible tasks under the watchful eye of a demanding clientele.
One such person is Karla Rossi, a trainer in a San Francisco women’s fitness facility. She likens her work to being a therapist. "First of all, I think you have to have good listening skills. I try to be attuned to each woman as she talks about herself and what she needs from the program."
Karla’s smile is infectious as she explains it’s no accident that working in the public arena is like becoming friends with those she sees everyday.
It’s that bond with her clients that makes her job rewarding. "We build relationships and that’s what I like best. My philosophy is not about collecting hundreds of members to make more money. I guess that’s what makes me good at my job."
Rossi figures she is also a facilitator by providing the information her clients need to achieve their fitness goals. "You have to listen to what is going on with them and be a cheerleader if it is warranted," Rossi observes. "And, because you build friendships, you know immediately when a woman is not having a good day and I should be available to listen."
She admits there are days when her smile comes slowly, but she has learned to keep her energy high. Sometimes she even brainstorms personal challenges with her clients, pulling strength from them.
Her advice to those about to venture into such a public job: Make sure you find some time alone. "I walk about a mile to my job," she explains. "As I walk and move my body I’m getting my head set. It’s important to make time to clear your head and take care of yourself."
Working in the public eye on a regular basis is not for everyone and Rossi advises those considering such a career to think about their social activities, circle of friends and how they interact with others. Can you share yourself and allow other people into your life?
"I’m not anonymous on the job," she concludes. "You have to be open – if not you will be miserable. You have to be giving and allow other people to give back to you."
"Letter carriers and post office clerks have to have excellent customer service skills because they are the liaison between us and the public," affirms Ralph Petty with the US Post Office in Sacramento. "At the counter, the public relies on them to guide them through a maze of mailing restrictions and products."
A job with the postal service requires passing an exam, which is usually administered several times a year at the discretion of the regional postmaster. Qualified candidates are placed on a register and when post offices need to hire they draw from that list. Individuals stay on the eligibility list for two years.
"Our training is ongoing," Petty adds. "We continually stress customer service and impress how to talk with customers to find out their wants and how to provide what they need."
Training for post office clerks is different from letter carriers who have to learn how to distinguish addresses, sort mail, become familiar with a particular route and handle paperwork.
"They are out every day and [carriers] have done some fantastic things," he notes. "One great story could have been a great tragedy."
In 2001, a letter carrier from the Sacramento area became worried when an elderly woman, who normally greeted him to chat and get her mail, had not been seen. After two days, he knocked on the doors of several neighbors who confirmed that they had not seen her either. The carrier and a several neighbors broke into the home and found the woman on the floor, alive but unable to move. They called an ambulance and she got the medical treatment she needed.
According to Petty, looking out for others is not an isolated event. "When carriers get to know the people on their routes, they can instinctively know when something is out of the ordinary," he contends. "For example, carriers have reported a suspected home invasion to the police and helped to put out a fire that saved a neighbor’s home.
"I guess you could say letter carriers conduct their own informal neighborhood watch," Petty concludes.
Mehdi Zarekari, owner of Z Cafe and Bar in Oakland, started out as a host for a large restaurant chain while he was still going to college. His goal was to pick up a little extra spending money.
As confidence in his people skills grew, he decided a job with a little more public exposure was for him. "I moved from a hosting position to waiting tables and then to bartender," he recalls. "The company had an excellent training program, which was better than anything I could learn in bartending school."
Zarekari had a plan. He began working the lunch shift, which no other employee wanted because the bar normally attracted only three or four patrons at that hour.
But service, he knew, was the key. By the third month, regulars were bringing in their friends and co-workers, making lunchtime at the bar so busy the managers had to help with the crowds.
Now he runs his own cafe, where – as you might expect – the business is built on service.
"My advice for those considering a career in the restaurant industry is simple: Leave your ego at home," he states. "If there is something you can do for people, do it. A little kindness goes a long way.
It’s all about little things. They always come back in a big way."
For more information on fields mentioned in this article, visit these websites:
www.AFAA.com – home site for the Aerobics & Fitness Association of America includes videos, workshops, certifications, and links to jobs.
www.CalRest.org – California Restaurant Association. Gives good insight into concerns of restaurant owners and operators. Also offers a job bank.
www.USPS.com – From sorting mail to finding a management position, this website provides the step-by-step procedures you may need.
www.DaleCarnegie.com – Named after the man who wrote the book (How to Win Friends and Influence People), this site offers enrollment in personality-improvement training.